Casey O’Brien – News Editor
In History Channel’s first-ever venture into scripted television, “Vikings” pleasantly surprises audiences with a taste of life in the eighth century.The first episode, which premiered on March 3, opens in 739 A.D. Scandinavia, introducing audiences to Ragnar, a fierce Viking with striking blue eyes, who is clearly dominating in battle upon a green hill. Ragnar is a Viking warrior, who serves under a local chieftain, raiding at his bidding. However, Ragnar has bigger dreams of sailing west, where he hears tales of lands waiting to be discovered. As his peers scoff at his proposal, Ragnar works in secret, building a new breed of longboats to get him across the wide ocean.
Mythology was an important part of Viking culture, and the series does not overlook that; in the midst of battle, while staring at slain men on the hillside, Ragnar hallucinates the Grim Reaper taking the souls of the fallen. Mythology is present throughout the first episode (would you expect anything less from The History Channel?), mentioning gods such as Odin and Loki.
The episode shows viewers the Viking way of life; how they lived, their family dynamics, and interactions with the chieftain and his raiders. Ragnar is a farmer in addition to being a warrior, living by a lake with his wife, Lagertha, and their daughter and son.
Viking women were not subservient, but warriors who fought with their husbands. Lagertha, a shield maiden, proves her strength early on in the episode when Ragnar is away and two men come to call; things do not end well for the men. In previews for the rest of the season, Lagertha joins Ragnar on his quest, wielding a shield and sword of her own.
The story has some root in fact; Ragnar Lodbrok was an actual Viking, and was said to be married to Lathgertha at one point. Besides this, it would seem The History Channel has taken some creative license, but it works.
Filmed in Ireland, the production team could not have found a more beautiful place to create the eighth century; the greenery is gorgeous and vibrant set against the dark clothing of the Vikings. The show gives off a slight HBO vibe, and keeps audiences curious throughout the episode, wanting to see if Ragnar will really defy his superiors and take off into the unknown.
Episodes can be found on History. com, along with an array of video clips, and a guide to the mythology mentioned in the series.